Bunads, botany and borders

Sign of a proud townWe found Kristiansand to be a town which was not only prosperous, but proud of its position as capital of the south of Norway. The students, who had put bubble-bath mix into the splendid fountains to celebrate our arrival, had met their match in the public works dept, who had changed the water in the system by the time we were ready to leave, as well as going around the town polishing their cast-iron manhole covers.

Two visits to "Navigare" chandlers had procured a large can of toe-rail oil and a new mackerel spinner, but a visit to the boat by Paul, an electronics engineer, had failed to sort out the problem with our heater. Nevertheless, all fuelled and watered, Robin, Vaughan and JK, the team for the next section, were keen to be away, so we set off into a fresh southerly breeze, and found an anchorage for our first night just short of the entrance to the Blindleia.

The many twists and turns of this waterway, which runs inside a fringe of coastal islands, were navigated the following day, finishing in Lillesand twenty miles to the north-east.The good ship beer It being saturday night, the youth of Lillesand was out for a bit of fun, and had built a bar and disco on a floating pontoon, which then motored around the harbour, propelled by an ancient 10hp Johnson, and returning to land for the girls convenience. We ventured as far as the non-floating pub but didn't hang around for the dancing. Sunday was 17th May, which is Norway's national day. Lillesand sprung to life at 8am, when the first brass band made an appearance by the quay. We joined the crowds lining the streets around 10am and found ourselves conspicuously dressed neither in our best suits shirts and ties, nor in the traditional "Bunad" - local national costume, which varies from county to county. Beautiful workmanship A fine procession with two bands led the school age children around the town, the youngsters of 11 and under were enjoying it immensely, but many of the teenagers were looking like they would most definitely rather have been elsewhere! The procession wound around the town and vanished into the church, at which point we set sail for Arendal, 20 miles further up the coast. On paradeWe arrived there in time for the 4pm adults parade, where sports clubs of all kinds joined the crocodile: cyclists in their lycra and helmets; ballet dancers in their - well, ballet dancers not wearing that much; the judo club, throwing eachother around the town; the "swing" club, preceded by a car with loudspeakers in the boot, dancing sambas and jiving along behind, and two Willy's jeeps loaded with uniformed veterans from 60 years ago. Speeches in the square followed the playing of the "Kings song" by the band - to the same tune as our "God save the queen...." - and the Norwegian National anthem followed to conclude the proceedings. By this time it was about 6pm, and everyone drifted away to have some lunch.
A perfect marching band

That reminds me - our first visitor in Arendal had been "Kiwi Anita" as she introduced herself, who is looking for crew to help her bring her boat from central France to Arendal this summer. Anyone interested in such a trip, contact Robin, who has Anita's phone number.

Well, I reckon its apple blossom We didn't know this one A visit to the botanical gardens of Lyngor was on the agenda the following day..... well, we walked along the path between the houses, and saw a lot of flowers, some of which we recognised.

An excellent evening followed, when we were invited to have a drink aboard a large steel-hulled ketch which had pulled onto the pontoon in front of us. New aquavit's were tasted and new jokes tucked away for future use. The owner had a degree in Chem Eng from Birmingham University, but all 6 of the guys aboard were actually on the loose for a week, since their wives had all gone on a girls trip to Crete.

Amsterdam? We broke the back of the mileage to Sandefjord the next day, with a long slow sail past the island of Jomfruland and the town of Risor, where we had enjoyed a nice climb up the hill two years ago.

Robin had found us a nice challenging overnight stop in a tiny harbour near Langesund. He manoeuvred Voltair alongside a large rock-face, with overhangs, and two metal spikes nicely positioned for bow and stern lines - but about 10ft too far in each direction. Vaughan coiled a rope with an eye-spliced end and prepared to throw it from the crowded quarterdeck - "I'll give you a pound if you get that on in 10 shots" said JK: The rope smacked into the spike, the loop jumped into the air and flopped over the steel - first go! Money changed hands! At the other end of the boat, JK tried to throw a loop of rope over the other spike, barely 5ft away, and consistently failed to do so! Robin edged nearer and then seized the rope himself to encircled the pin without drama. We backed away to a central position and spent a pleasant night "on the wall", though the view to port was somewhat constrained. When we came to leave, Vaughan casually flicked the stern rope, the loop jumped off the pin and was retrieved. JK challenged Vaughan to repeat the feat of the previous night as we passed the front pin - and he did, first time again! More money is now owing, I think!

In Sandefjord we said goodbye to Robin, who had to nip back to Worcester to practice his German interpretation, but were able to welcome Dick for the next leg to Gothenburg. Robin had reported that for some reason no harbour dues were chargeable on 21st May...... it turned out to be Ascension day, and all the shops were closed as well! Fortunately, an Asian "open all hours" shop supplied our immediate needs for the evening, and we managed to buy the remaining supplies (except for a bucket and some sandpaper) needed for the next leg. (and, for those of you who saw the video, those items are not needed for australian-style toiletting whilst in the Gota-canal).


Voltair has now been sailing in Swedish waters for 24 hours, but our feet have only just trodden Swedish sod.

Whilst still in Norwegian waters, after an uneventful crossing of the entrance to Oslo fjord in moderate to poor viz, rain and a quartering sea, we had entered Frederikstad's intricate waterways by the western spiral arm of the Elva.

The two rivers that flow into the sea at Frederikstad are called the Glommen and the Gluppe, but before they reach it, the Glommen bifurcates around the island of Isengran, some of it going south and changing its name to the Eastern Elva, and some of it going west, marrying up with the Gluppe and jointly becoming the Western Elva. I mention all this, not just for the geographers amongst you but also to explain why it was that Voltair did 14 miles of night cruising (according to the log), whilst tied up in between the bridges at Frederikstad. Tying up in a 1.5 knot current was something we hadn't done before, and it looked a doddle. Ferry glide across the current to the bank, put on a bow and stern line and "job done". But we were a bit too far forward to reach the steps up the stone quay wall, so a bit of adjustment was necessary. VJ was controlling the stern line and holding his end of the boat nicely to the quay. However, the bow end had a mind of its own, and quite a lot of river decided to flow down the gap, leaving Dick struggling to prevent the bows from swinging out, and the whole boat turning around. (You know that feeling you get when pulling on a rope, which is pulling too hard against you, and a quay edge is very close..... Dick got it!) "Hard a-port and motor forwards" - no - that didn't work: the stern line just tightened and the bows didn't budge. Eventually, VJ was cajoled into releasing the stern line for a bit, when everything came back to normal and we regained control of the front half of the boat.

The boat was now nicely adjacent to a pub, was receiving no less than 8 Wi-fi broadband networks, and roast lamb smells were wafting from the oven. As the summer season was still 3 weeks off, there were no mooring fees. Almost Voltair heaven, you might say. We took a walk around the pubs after dinner, but most were playing their music to empty houses, or to the bouncers alone. They finally got going as did the rain, around midnight, by which time the thought of expensive beer and wet clothes didn't appeal so much, so we settled for a nightcap made in the Hebrides.

King Fred II's marketLike Robin's crew two years ago, we presented ourselves at 9am at the bridge, toast and marmalade still clutched in one hand. We were the only boat waiting, but the bridge still lifted for us, though a similar problem with the current when leaving left Dick stranded on the bank! We picked him up and motored upsteam to the bifurcation of the river, past a couple of hundred racing cyclists who were warming up for a road race around the town. There was a nice inviting stone quay right outside the Old Town, which said something in Norwegian we didn't understand, but translated along the lines of "mooring only for yachts like Voltair", so we parked up for and had a walk around the old fortress town, where Saturday morning was street-market morning. In the market we bought rhubarb from one stall, Eric Clapton CDs from another, and a zither from a third. Robin will, I'm sure, be thrilled with the purchase, and JK is looking forward to learning from him how to play it. There was another purchase, and this week's competition is to tell us what it was.

What's new?Soon we were leaving the town behind and carrying the river current down to the sea, a fair breeze on the starboard beam powering all three of our sails for most of the day. The border was crossed in the early afternoon, and we had toasts to sailing in Norway, sailing in Sweden, and for good measure, sailing in Scotland. The flag officer changed the courtesy flag and we switched to making jokes in a Swedish accent instead of a Norwegian one.

Entry to the EUStromstad seemed like a good place to go next, according to all the books and our 2007 log, so we went there. Unfortunately, so had all of Norway, and every berth in the harbour was taken, two or three abreast. So we left again without docking and went west six miles to what looked on the chart like a lonely village. This too was totally full with Norwegian flags and Helly-Hansen insignias. We think this long holiday weekend must have been sponsored by HH, so many boats did we see with their stickers or flags. So we, along with two other yachts, swung to anchors, leaving the other 50 yachts and motorboats to fight it out for pontoon space normally sufficient for 15. It was a lovely sunny evening - featherweight 10-year-old boys zipped around the harbour in inflatables powered by tiny motors, teenagers burbled past in fast-looking racers, and somebody's athletic looking daughter in shorts and braces mowed at least part of a lawn rather decoratively on our starboard beam. JK scraped the grey off a grab rail and applied "Treolje" to the rail and g&t to himself, Vaughan and half of Dick slaved over preparation of a hot "polser" curry, while the other half of Dick immersed himself in Bombay Sapphire and the Whitbread book of the year.

Off to the ArcticToday has been a quite fresh sou-souwesterly day and we have been going south, so Perkins has had rather more to do than yesterday. However, he has been doing it very steadily, in big waves as well as small. We almost had a swedish beer at the village we just stopped at, but it was sunday, still not summer, and the bar was shut, even though the invitation to stop was big enough for us to see and inviting enough for us to turn around and moor up. Just as we were finishing lunch and beer brought by ourselves, a pair of cold-looking sea-canoeists landed on the pontoon at the side of us and also headed for the pub. We fell into conversation with them - they also were Norwegians, and down for the weekend. They had camped out last night on a secluded island and were now on their way back to the car. We offered a cup of coffee and a warm cabin, and listened to their stories of canoeing in the Arctic - much where we had been last year. The man had been a lifelong canoeist, and a white water instructor, and was off to the Vesteralen in July for a sea-kayak week and race. We were not sure if his girl friend would be on that endurance test - perhaps as driver and support.

Remind you of anything?!Now we are at Fjallbacka, enjoying the morning sunshine, and, we hope, changing or spending our Norwegian currency. We noticed last night how shrivelled the mooring buoys were looking, and wonder whether this has as much to do with the cold winter as prolonged immersion. Perhaps by September they will reach their usual shape and cheerfulness.

Regards from Dick, Vaughan and JK, 3 days sailing north of Gothenburg.

Click here for our previous postcard